Hench-Sized Comic Book Reviews – 5/12/18

Just one week until Deadpool 2 comes out! If only I was reading Deadpool comics and could link these reviews and that movie in some way. I guess I’ve just got to wait until Marvel makes that Squirrel Girl movie.

Lots of good comics this week, I enjoyed almost everything. I still think Exiles is terrible, but Domino, Runaways, Squirrel Girl and Detective Comics are still a blast! And Comic Book of the Week goes to the kick-off issue of the Justice League: No Justice storyline. It’s big and fun!

Harley Bear 01

Who is driving? Bear is driving?!

Meanwhile, if you live in the Rochester, NY area, I’ll be at the Flower City Comic-Con promoting Gamer Girl & Vixen next month! Mark your calendars!

Comic Reviews: Detective Comics #980, Domino #2, Exiles #3, Justice League: No Justice #1, Runaways #9 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #32.


Detective Comics #980

Detective Comics #980
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Scot Eaton

We’re entering the endgame here, people! Tynion’s big crazy story just got turned up a notch! And I think I heard somewhere that next issue is his last issue!

OMAC Tim and his army attempt to expand by forcibly recruiting/converting the GCPD, but Batwoman is there to stop them. Meanwhile, Batman, Spoiler and Orphan sneak into Belfry 2.0 to shut things down from within. Batman fights off OMAC Azrael and OMAC Batwing while Stephanie attempts to hack into the General’s systems. Brother Eye and the General see them coming and attempt to stop Stephanie and Cass by showing them images of Evil Fascist Future Tim Drake’s timeline, the Pre-52 timeline, where both Steph and Cass were Batgirl at one point or another. The two are shocked at the reveal, and the General taunts that their New 52 versions are lesser versions, so why should he be afraid of them?

Stephanie just laughs it off and points out that those visions are just proof that she’s awesome in every single timeline. And when her hack succeeds, she tells the General that he just gave her access to a whole different timeline’s worth of ways to beat him!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Very good times, all around! I’m not fully up to speed on what exactly DC is doing with their Pre-52 vs. New 52 history storyline, so it was a little jarring to suddenly see the classic Batgirls just show up in the middle of the comic. I’m glad, in the end, that it didn’t really stop Stephanie, but it was weird for a moment that she was so surprised. I suppose I probably take it for granted how much Stephanie knows about alternate realities, but most comic book characters treat it like no big deal. And if it’s no big deal, why would a peek at some previously unmentioned alternate reality unnerve anybody that much? Why not show her the alternate reality where she’s a Dracula? So I dunno, it was just a weird moment to hang the climax of the issue on is all.

Steph Brown Robin 01

You’re darn right I’m going to mark the occasion when DC references the time Stephanie Brown was Robin!

The rest of the comic is acceptably fun and exciting. The tension is ratcheting up, the threat is real, the soul of Tim Drake is in the balance and the good guys are just as heroic and awesome as we want. Tynion and Co. are really on a roll with this one and I’m excited to get the climax, both because I want to make sure Tim is OK, and because I’m kind of ready for this to be over with. It’s big, it’s fun, it’s got a lot of great momentum, but I’m ready for the ending, ready to see where this goes and how it comes to rest.

Also, when Cass sees her former self, she’s shocked that she was allowed to wear the Bat-symbol. Holy heck, you guys, just how poorly does everybody treat Cass in this universe? Like, is she forbidden from wearing the Bat-symbol on her Orphan uniform?! Leslie Thompkins is right, Batman is really failing this girl.

TL;DR: The action just keeps picking up and the fun never slows down as the latest Detective Comics storyline builds to a big, heroic finale!


Domino #2

Domino #2
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: David Baldeon

I’m sticking with Domino for the time being. I’m not entirely sold on the comic yet, but it’s fun enough, and I love me some Gail Simone.

Topaz, the woman who threw Domino out her bedroom window last issue, has the power to turn off or supercharge a person’s powers. She turns them back on for Domino just in time for her to be saved from falling by Spider-Man. But Domino is still pretty shaken from the incident and her friends, Diamondback and Outlaw, help her cope. Also, Topaz and the old man teleport away before the rest of Domino’s friends kill them.

Domino is apparently friends with Amadeus Cho for some reason, and they go out for a morning jog together so that she can run some ideas past him. She wants to know if his nanobots can prevent Topaz’s powers from effecting Domino. She also suspects maybe Outlaw or Diamondback of being a double agent! And Domino chose that park to jog in so that she could work out some frustration on some muggers who were known to be in the area.

The next night, Domino and her people (including Cho) go work a security job on a riverboat on the Mississippi River. When it’s over, Topaz and her old man partner reveal themselves, and the old man, now young, explains that he is somehow connected to her. When Domino gets lucky, he ages rapidly. But now that bad things are happening to Domino thanks to Topaz, he’s getting young again. So he wants to cause bad things to keep happening to her, so he blows up all her friends!

Comic Rating: 7/10 – Good.

For the second time in this short-lived series, somebody comments on how the black spot around one of Domino’s eyes is supposed to be freakish. Am I alone in thinking that black spot is super badass and sexy? In the Marvel Universe, is that not something really cool to have? At the very least, it’s not as weird as Simone keeps making it out to be. Heck, it’s tame compared to some other body modifications people get in the real world.

Anyway, this was another fun issue with a nice focus on the main character. I think the issue is a little too packed, and that hurts the art. Baldeon is good, I like him, but there’s way too much happening on each page and he gets really crowded. Simone is a comic book master, and she knows how to pack her books, but I think Domino could use a little more breathing room. She’s not that well-known of a character, and while watching her beat up some muggers in the park is fun, the issue definitely could have done without the random Amadeus Cho scenes. Who knew the characters even knew each other?

Domino Not Fine 01

He could have taken her back to the party instead of the roof

So yeah, maybe trim some of the fat and you’d have a stronger comic. Simone is really positioning Domino as a solid leading character. She’s damn cool, with a neat power, but she’s having some confidence issues these days, made worse by this new set of villains in her life. I look forward to uncovering who these people are and why they’re messing with Domino.

TL;DR: Domino is still fun and the storyline deepens in the second issue, but I think the comic is a little overstuffed with story beats and artwork.


Exiles #3

Exiles #3
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Javier Rodriguez

Oh my god, this comic sucks. I thought it was bad before, but somehow, Exiles has gotten even worse in only its third issue. It’s just barreling forward with all its nonsense.

After the Watchers blasted the Tallus, the Exiles are simply tossed into another reality, still together — though the Tallus is damaged. This is the reality of the Extreme Dinoaurs (not really) and everybody starts fighting dinosaur soldiers, until the Time-Eater shows up to eat this world, and the Tallus sends them to another one. So the Tallus still works, even though Iron Lad gives lip service to the idea that it’s navigation isn’t working. Whatever. They wind up in a hippie version of Atlantis, which also gets eaten shortly thereafter.

Though to add another wrinkle to this comic, Morph shows up for a single page. Apparently the old Exiles are still together, but they got split up and were supposed to come to this world as a rallying point. Blink is happy to see him…until he gets eaten up like everybody else.

Then it’s on to the next world, a World War II world where Peggy Carter is randomly Captain America. Even she points out that it’s silly that a British person is Captain America. Anyway, she immediately just assumes all these weirdos are her new commando unit (including the literal cartoon person) and she takes them with her on a mission to stop the Red Skull from dropping an atomic bomb onto Jersey City. The Exiles play along for the hell of it, defeat the Red Skull and take the bomb with them. Then while they’re celebrating, the bomb starts leaking and that causes it to explode.

Comic Rating: 3/10 – Bad.

I don’t even know where to begin with everything I hated about this comic. So let’s start with the exposition, which is still a huge problem. The characters don’t talk to each other. There are no human connections in this comic (save for one tiny moment, which I’ll get to in a bit). Everybody just spouts exposition at each other, or some vague, dialogue-like statement of their feelings/intentions. For example, Blink, who not only grew up in the war-torn Age of Apocalypse, but also spent years meeting alternate universe characters, is having a hard time understanding the very basic idea that Khan is a grizzled old war vet. It’s not that weird, Blink. It’s not like you really knew the regular young Kamala Khan. Stop trying to get Khan to recite her origin story.

Or how about the extended bit where Iron Lad randomly questions Valkyrie on what name they should call her, while they’re traveling between dimensions. And when she gives him an answer about being a tough Asgardian warrior, Khan comments that Valkyrie is intense! No! That’s Khan’s character! Why is Khan remarking that someone else is intense when Khan is supposed to be the most intense?!

Exiles Intense 01

That’s not even that intense of a thing to say!

Or how about the continued fact that nobody in any reality has any reaction to any of this?!

Have you ever seen a CGI-heavy movie where something amazing is happening on screen, but the actors don’t really react to it? Because all they saw when they filmed the scene was a big green screen? And it takes you out of the movie? That’s what this comic feels like sometimes. Nobody seems bothered at all that they just keep randomly jumping to strange new worlds. Giant soldier dinosaurs? Yeah sure, whatever. WWII era soldiers interacting with a tiny cartoon person and a horse with wings? Just shrug it off as something crazy that command came up with. This comic’s one major, unique gimmick doesn’t mean anything to anyone involved.

And it doesn’t help that the issue and series move way too damn fast to let anybody react to any of this! We’ve already seen a dozen or so worlds in only 3 issues. Nobody has time to stop and smell the roses. Heck, Morph randomly shows up to add an entirely new subplot to the comic, and Blink is allowed to show a different emotion for once, but he’s gone within a single page! And then everybody is immediately whisked away to a new world and Blink is told to just shrug it off and get on with the mission.

Exiles Morph 01

How do they keep track of the horse?

And the mission is so booooring! In a comic where they visit Dinosaur Soldier Land and Hippie Atlantis, why does the issue spend the most time with an incredibly basic WWII story? Red Skull wants to drop an atomic bomb on America? Jeez louise, can you get any more uncreative? And I liked Peggy Carter in the MCU as much as the next person, but just like everybody else, this new character is little more than skin deep. She’s just Peggy Carter, but for unexplained reasons, she’s Captain America now. There is zero creativity put into the Peggy Carter story or character, and it’s the bulk of the issue.

The moment stinks of some editorial mandate that people like Peggy Carter, so make her cooler and throw her into the book. Like just the notion that Peggy Carter as Captain America should be enough to get our hearts a’flutter. Similar thought clearly went into making MCU Valkyrie a member of the team, in looks alone, at least.

Ugh. There’s probably more to rant about, but I’m running out of steam. Now I’ll share the one single moment of quality character interaction/development in the entire issue so far.

Exiles Flowers 01

Only redeeming moment

No, I don’t mean the belabored ‘nerd dialogue’ that goes into casting Iron Lad’s character. Nor do I mean Blink again not understanding Khan’s whole deal. I mean the tiny detail that Wolvie immediately rushes off to pick some poseys and then gifts them to Valkyrie. It’s super cute. I wonder if the artist came up with that little bit, thereby managing to deliver some actual character interaction in this comic.

TL;DR: This is such a badly written comic. The characters are only skin deep, the story rockets ahead so fast that nobody has any time to react to anything and the dialogue is just stilted exposition.


Justice League: No Justice #1

Justice League: No Justice #1
Writers: Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson
Artist: Francis Manapul

Marvel put Jason Aaron on a new Avengers relaunch to kick ass. And now DC has Scott Snyder leading an A-Team of awesomeness to relaunch a crazy new Justice League story! And both involve giant celestial gods! Fancy that.

The Source Wall was broken open at the end of Dark Knights: Metal, and first through the breach are the Four Brothers, ancient, cosmic beings who represent four concepts: Entropy, Wisdom, Wonder and Mystery. Once upon a time, the Four Brothers seeded their concepts into life throughout the galaxy, intending to see which concept proved strongest at the end of reality, at which point the victors would soak up all energy/life.

Meanwhile, Brainiac launches an orchestrated attack on Earth, using his forces to take out all of the major superhero teams: the Justice League, the Titans, the Teen Titans and the Suicide Squad. Once everybody is captured, Brainiac reveals that his attack was his way of pointing out that the current superhero teams on Earth are too comfortable and easily exploitable. Brainiac’s homeworld is under attack from one of the Four Brothers and he needs the heroes’ help, but he has come up with several new team arrangements that best represent the various concepts and will, therefore, be better suited to take on the Four Brothers. He’s also recruited a bunch of villains to fill out the teams.  Everybody is on board with helping to save an entire planet/universe, though some people bristle at the team lineups.

Double meanwhile, Amanda Waller is annoyed that her Suicide Squad got abducted and that she isn’t in the loop with these big superhero events. So she kidnaps every psychic on the planet and links them to a machine to try and read Brainiac’s mind. And just as our heroes arrive at Brainiac’s homeworld and Brainiac begins to lay out his perfectly orchestrated, only-hope-for-victory plan, Waller’s psychics trip some kind of security feature and Brainiac’s head explodes.

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

This was fun, in that really neat, totally insane way that superhero comics can be fun. It’s like Snyder and his people came up with the idea of just jostling together a bunch of random new superhero squads and worked backwards from there to figure out the craziest, wildest way to make it happen and have fun with it. Brainiac requesting the Justice League’s help? Sure! Heroes and villains forced together into color-coded squads? Sounds neat! Giant, epic, universe-threatening cosmic beings? Always fun! Amanda Waller messing everything up? Sure, why not! Gotta have subplots!

Starfire Sinestro 01

I feel Starfire would be Compassion, but that’s not how the Indigo Tribe works — also, I’m only now realizing this, but apparently Brainiac whent through all the trouble of either dying Cyborg’s armor red or implanting him with new red armor just so he’d stick to the color scheme

If you’re going to do a big Justice League relaunch, you’ve got to go big. And it helps to have fun with it. What this storyline does is create new and potentially interesting character combinations, to see how they play out. And I think that’s a great idea! Character-based stories are my favorite kinds of comic book stories, and this looks poised to really deliver. Already in this issue we’ve got Starfire facing off against Sinestro, Lex Luthor finding common ground with Martian Manhunter, Superman working in tandem with Brainiac, and Beast Boy getting fun scenes with a bunch of people! All of that rich new character interaction is worth the cost of another vaguely too massive cosmic threat.

And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of my favorite comic book tropes is when a villain acts like a hero in the face of dire circumstances, so this storyline is definitely right up my alley.

Manapul on art is also a godsend of goodness. I’ve always wanted to read more comics with him behind the art.

TL;DR: The new Justice League goes pretty big and goes pretty crazy, but it’s the juicey new character interactions and lineups that really make this book hugely entertaining and fun.


Runaways #9

Runaways #9
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artist: Kris Anka

Gold Star for xmenxpert! He correctly guessed the identity of the Doctor Doom from the previous issue.

Doom is Doombot, Victor’s friend from the short-lived Avengers A.I. comic. Doombot has come to fix Victor, and he butts heads with Chase over how to go about building Victor a new body (which Victor doesn’t want anyway). Julie also has a jealous blow up when Karolina is vague and clingy about what it means to be a Runaway and how Julie wouldn’t understand.

Meanwhile, Molly is still debating as to whether or not she should eat the magic cupcake that will keep her young forever. Her BFF Abbie lays the pressure on pretty thick, that the team views Molly as the cute mascot, and that’s not going to last much longer. Molly doesn’t tell anybody, but keeps getting out-of-context bad advice about how growing up sucks. You’ve got to get a job. And adults are lame. Then everybody decides to go see Lord of the Rings at the drive-in.

Karolina was supposed to stay and meet up with Julie, but decides to just go along with her friends and text Julie to meet them. Julie shows up at an empty hostel and is all sad that her girlfriend keeps avoiding a serious discussion. So Julie decides to eat Molly’s yummy-looking cupcake for comfort food — and it turns her into a little girl!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Ah man, this issue had a big stumbling block for me that hit a nerve I have with the Runaways comic. I love this comic. And I love the Karolina/Julie Power pairing. It’s a great little relationship that sprang up during Runaway’s long hiatus. It’s cute and fun and Rowell has done an amazing job incorporating it into her new comic. But she gets a little weird with it here. And honestly, I think this might just be bugging me personally. The rest of the issue is the normally fun Runaways goodness. But I need to get this nitpick off my chest.

So basically, after the dust has settled with Doombot, Julie casually asks if she should stick around for the mission debriefing. Like, she pictures this group as an official superhero team that breaks down the lessons of their latest mission. Except…it wasn’t a mission. It was a sudden fight. And what part of this group makes Julie think they’re an official team with debriefings? Basically, this request from Julie comes out of nowhere and makes no sense for her to ask.

Runaways Julie 03

She seems to earnest about it!

Then when Karolina sheepishly informs her girlfriend that they don’t do that stuff and she wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be a Runaway, Julie starts shouting about Xavin, Karolina’s ex. And again, it comes out of nowhere! I get that Julie is feeling a little tense about her relationship right now (for good reason), but both this debriefing thing and this Xavin thing come crazy out of nowhere and seem to exist just to paint Julie as irrational. It felt really weird to me, considering how normal and grounded Rowell had been writing the relationship troubles. Like she needed a reason for Julie to get mad and pulled this weird mission debriefing jazz out of thin air.

Look, it just bugged me is all.

The rest of the issue is great, as usual. I love that every time Molly tries to indirectly get advice on her current problem from the older Runaways, their advice is both perfectly normal and in character, but also hugely and unintentionally damaging to Molly’s psyche. Like, Molly asks Gert if she still hates adults, and Gert totally does, because that’s Gert. But Molly doesn’t get the chance to ask Gert if that also means Gert would choose to stay a kid forever. Or she asks Chase if he thinks she’s cute, hoping to hear that he sees her as more than just an adorable mascot. But Chase doesn’t realize how deep the question actually is and assures Molly that she’s the cutest, because that’s a nice, positive thing to tell a friend.

Obviously this would all be solved if Molly just told her friends what’s going on, but it’s in-character that she wouldn’t…plus it would just negate the plot.

The issue is full of moments of normal, human interaction that not only reinforce each plot, but make each one deeper and more exciting. That’s the beauty of Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways.

And Doombot is awesome and funny. I take back everything I ranted at Rowell in my last review when I thought she was writing regular Doctor Doom. I hope she can forgive me.

TL;DR: Another awesome issue of Runaways just twists the screws in all the best ways.


Squirrel Girl #32

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #32
Writer: Ryan North
Artist: Derek Charm

New artist, people! Erica Henderson is gone but neva forgotten! Let’s all welcome Derek Charm.

Doreen is teaching computer science to kids these days, and after class, she and Nancy get to talking and realize they haven’t heard from Kraven in a while. Doreen decides it would be a great idea if they hung out with Kraven as civilians, like actual friends, to help keep him on the straight and narrow. Maybe an escape room together! Kraven is down with the idea and meets everybody as a civilian. Doreen tries to trust him with her secret identity, but Kraven had already figured it out.

Anyway, they go to the escape room, but the guy running it is apparently on the lookout for real superheroes. When he detects that they have powers, he activates the more lethal traps in the escape room!

Comic Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would have been perfectly happy with a comic where Doreen, Kraven and her pals solve an ordinary escape room. And Unbeatable Squirrel Girl seems like the exact sort of comic that would make that happen. But ah well, what we got was still a lot of fun! Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is unlike any other superhero comic, and this issue is a great example of why. In Squirrel Girl’s efforts to fight crime, she randomly decides to be proactively friendly to known super-villains to keep them on the straight and narrow. It’s a wonderfully neat idea! Made even greater by the arrival of civilian Kraven!

Squirrel Escape 01

Should have been the entire issue

The whole section of the comic about Doreen, Kraven and her friends just being normal, ordinary people is awesome. It’s very down-to-Earth, very real. There’s a Howard the Duck cameo and everybody just rolls with it like normal people. I loved it! Has Kraven ever been this cool? Squirrel Girl, Kraven, Nancy and the gang doing an escape room is the height of Squirrel Girl fun.

The new artist is really good, too. I was a little taken aback at first because his characters are a little less detailed than I’m used to. Very simple, almost minimalist. It’s not bad, just different. I’m sure it will grow on me. I’m happy to let it.

TL;DR: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl welcomes a new artist with a really fun issue, which features a uniquely Squirrel Girl approach to crime-fighting.

The comics I review in my Hench-Sized reviews are just the usual comics I pick up from my local shop any given week, along with a few impulse buys I might try on a whim. So if there are any comics or series you’d like me to review each week, let me know in the comments!


About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on May 12, 2018, in Batman, Comics, DC, Marvel, Reviews, Robin and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Agree on Domino and The Exiles. Hey, good band name…

  2. Domino is really good. The downbeat first part of the issue and the more exciting second half both work well. As for Cho, they worked together during a Weapon X/Totally Awesome Hulk crossover.

    Exiles is something I’m still enjoying. It’s fun. It’s weird and goofy and there’s some character dynamics I’m enjoying.

    Runaways is good. And aw yeah I called it. Doombot! Man, Avengers AI was great, and Doombot was a definite stand-out in it.

    Squirrel Girl has the same fun writing. And I like the art. But it’s so different from Henderson, and it’s going to take me some getting used to. Especially because Charm’s Doreen isn’t as curvy as Henderson’s.

    • Oh yeah, I read that Weapon X crossover. Apparently it wasn’t as memorable for me.

    • I did notice with the new Squirrel Girl art that Nancy Whitehead is a lot…shall we say…hotter? Not that Nancy is/was ugly. I just always thought Henderson had been going for a purposefully less than gorgeous look for Nancy. Now she’s more traditionally feminine.

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